Boyda: Iraq exit strategy should be Bush’s lone option
Congresswoman Nancy Boyda has high praise for the U.S. commander in Iraq, but says it's time President Bush and his advisers prepare an exit strategy for U.S. combat troops in the oil-rich country.
"We need to make decisions now on where things are, not on where they wish they were," Boyda, D-Kan., said in a telephone interview Monday while en route to Kansas City International Airport to catch a flight back to Washington.
She and her husband, Steve, had just left a get-acquainted lunch at Fort Leavenworth with its new commander, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, and his wife, Stephanie.
Last week, Boyda was among the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote in favor of legislation requiring U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq within 120 days. The Senate was debating similar redeployment proposals this week, and Bush was promising a veto on any troop withdrawal bill that reaches his desk.
Boyda, who has three military installations -- Fort Leavenworth, Fort Riley and Forbes Field in Topeka -- in her district, said U.S. troops and their equipment were being stretched too thin and left in harm's way while the Iraqi government continued to drag its feet on meeting its commitments toward achieving security in their nation.
"I certainly hope and pray every day that in some way the Iraqis will come in and stand up and start to honor their commitments," she said. "At this point, that may be nothing short of a miracle."
She said having U.S. combat troops remain in Iraq offers a recruiting tool to al-Qaida and emboldens Iranian interference in Iraq.
Asked whether the U.S. military should keep advisers and other noncombat personnel in Iraq, Boyda said she suspected that would be the case but deferred to others.
"I am not expert enough on the situation to say what that mix should be," she said.
The first-term congresswoman, who campaigned against the war in Iraq, paid homage to Gen. David Petraeus, who took command of the multinational forces in Iraq in February after a two-year stint as commander of Fort Leavenworth.
"He is working under virtually impossible conditions," Boyda said of Petraeus. "I just thank God he is there for us."
In the telephone interview, Boyda also:
- Commented on a 2008 defense bill that recently passed the House. It includes a 3.5 percent pay increase for military personnel, a half-percent more than the White House recommends.
Boyda, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and its Subcommittee on Military Personnel, said the House proposal tries to make up for a military pay increase last year that was 1 percent less than the pay raise given to civilian government workers.
"It was just a real slap in the face during warfare to give them a raise that's less than those who work at the State Department, the EPA, IRS or wherever," she said.
- Was impressed with Leavenworth County officials, even though the county was not on the list of five finalists for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
"Leavenworth did an incredible job of presenting Leavenworth and Leavenworth County as a great place to house the facility," she said.
A site in Manhattan, which also is in Boyda's district, made the cut.
"I'm disappointed for Leavenworth but thrilled for Kansas and Manhattan," Boyda said.
- Said she was hopeful the Leavenworth-based Alliance for Family Violence would regain federal funding for its anti-violence programs while Democrats are in control of Congress.
Last year, before Boyda took office, the alliance lost a $250,000 federal grant, crippling the nonprofit agency. While Boyda's office is prohibited from preparing a new grant request for the alliance, it has been in contact with the agency, she said.
"I am hopeful this Congress will be able to attain some additional funding for those programs that had been on the chopping block," she said. "I just think that with a different Congress there will be different priorities."